Fallout from the UK’s shock decision to leave the EU last week continues with news that food prices are likely to rise at least in the short term.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond, who described the EU referendum result as a “political car crash”, warned that Britain’s dependence on food imports combined with the enfeebled pound, at its lowest value for more than 30 years, would result in increased food prices.
“Sadly, we only produce 60% of the food we consume – we’ve seen our self-sufficiency fall dramatically – so we are very dependent on imported food,” Raymond said in an interview with The Guardian. “So a weaker pound will mean higher imported food value… the government could easily be held to ransom by other parts of the world if there is a climatic disaster or if currency is weak.”
Brexit augured badly for UK farmers, Raymond observed, as farmers who receive up to £3bn in EU subsidies every year were now headed for “uncharted waters”. Exports too would be hit, he said.
“We export 38% of the lamb we produce in the UK into the EU; that’s a huge quantity. We are very dependent and there is huge demand in Europe for it. We exported in excess of 3m tonnes of wheat and barley into Europe [a year]. We do export a fair bit of beef and a fair bit of added-value cheese and dairy product. Each sector is vulnerable if we lost those export opportunities. But the sheep sector will be the one that will be hit the most.”
The NFU has called an extraordinary meeting of its governing body on 1 July to discuss what the Brexit vote means for farming.